Today, many people hold passionate viewpoints about how infants should be fed. As a result of this phenomenon, some moms may find themselves in one of two camps: either they believe that “breast is best,” or they prefer the bottle. To photographer and mother-of-two Felicia Saunders, however, there is no wrong way to nourish a baby—a belief that is at the heart of a recent inspiring photo series.
Every August, Saunders offers what she refers to as “Nurture/Bonding” portrait sessions. While, in the past, she promoted this project with shoots that primarily featured mothers breast or bottle-feeding their babies, this year, she decided to do something a bit different.
Inspired by a client and friend whose baby boy requires a tube to feed, she decided to shoot a trio of mothers as they fed their children in the ways that work for them—whether by breast, by bottle, or by medical apparatus. In each case, Saunders captures the bond between the mothers and babies, proving the power of “the loving bond you form feeding your baby, no matter your feeding style!”
Saunders shared the photograph on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. In order to learn more about this project—and how she has reacted to this rise in internet fame—we recently spoke to Saunders. Read My Modern Met's exclusive interview below to find out more about this powerful photo series.
The concept behind your feeding photos was inspired by your own struggles breastfeeding. Do your experiences as a mother often inform your photography?
I feel inclusion is very important in my work because of the challenges I faced in my own breastfeeding journey, which turned into formula feeding for both of my children. I was unable to produce enough breast milk to feed either of my babies and I felt like a failure because I could not provide what I was led to believe was the “only way.”
When I began to use formula, I realized that what is best for others wasn’t always what is best for me and my baby. I think my work does reflect me and even my mothering journey in some aspects, but ultimately I am aiming to create timeless art for the client and what they love.
How did you come up with the specific concept for this shoot?
The message I wish to relay isn't necessarily “fed is best;” it is that we are all moms (and dads) doing what is best for our babies, even if that means it is different than others. No one should judge another person; we are all doing what we do out of the same kind of love. As long as we are nourishing our children with love then that is what matters.
How did you meet the three women featured in the photos?
All three of these beautiful moms are clients and friends of mine. I have photographed all three of these sweet babies since they were newborns. When I had the idea to include them all in one shot for my promo, I knew they each had their feeding styles and asked if they'd like to participate in the promo—and they were all happy to.
Was this shoot different from your more standard sessions?
The only difference with this photo shoot was that I included multiple clients in a single shot vs only individual shots. I wanted to show each beautiful story all in one place in unity. This portrait was captured with the intent to be used for my annual promo.
Reactions to this series have been overwhelmingly positive! How does it feel to have elicited such a response?
The experience of going “viral” has been a whirlwind in the best way imaginable. It did/does get a little overwhelming, but has been so positive. My e-mail is flooded with gratitude; people have shared sweet, strong and even some secret stories with me all reflecting gratitude. I am honored to have reached and helped so many amazing people!
Has this experience influenced or altered your approach to your practice?
No, I still operate my business as I always have: personal and luxury service.
What do you hope people who believe “breast is best” take away from this photo?
I am pro “moms supporting moms” (or anyone for that matter), and I knew other mothers could be feeling much like I had because they were unable to breastfeed or chose an alternative. I wanted to create an image to show those mothers that, regardless of how they feed their babies, they are beautiful and strong. I also wanted the image to inspire inclusion, support, and empathy. My message is not directed against any form or style of feeding; instead I hope that it speaks inclusion for all.